Capsicum pubescens is found in cultivation primarily in north-western South America, as well as southern Central America. It has been cultivated in Bolivia and Peru for thousands of years. It is commonly called rocoto (Quechua: ruqutu) and locoto (Aymara: luqutu). It is among the oldest of domesticated peppers, up to as much as 5000 years ago by the Incas. The word “pubescens”, means hairy, refering to the hairy leaves of the plant. The hairs and the black seeds, distinguish this species from others. As they reach a relatively advanced age they can be refereed to as The Tree Chili. They quickly grow into 4 meter woody plants and live up to 15 years, giving them an almost tree-like appearance.

A very notable feature of this species is its ability to withstand cooler temperatures. Pubescens grows at higher elevations than other species, and cannot survive the tropical heat in the lowlands. There are several cultivars of C. pubescens; most are rarely cultivated, and are now relatively scarce. Cultivars include ‘Canario’ (yellow), ‘Manzano’ (red), ‘Peron’ (pear-shaped), and ‘Rocoto Longo’, developed in the Canary Islands.